In a time where technology is the driving force of communication, we can be bombarded with too much information, much of which is quite negative.  Currently, Toronto is a media target, both nationally and internationally, due to Mayor Rob Ford’s numerous indiscretions. Negative media attention can easily fuel undue upset, anger, discouragement, and embarrassment.

Negativity is every where. People Finger-pointing and complaining inhibits growth opportunities, reduces possibilities and effectively stifles productive conversations and creative solutions.can feel blanketed by it like being shrouded by a thick fog when driving. This contributes to nervousness, confusion, frustration and anxiety. So how do we release such negative energy? Because “bad things” are happening all the time, and when we feel like we cannot take it anymore, what do we do about it? How can we move forward?

What follows are views, ideas and precepts that can help turn a negative experiences into a positive ones?

Gandhi once said, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall,” (from Joe Vitale’s Life’s Missing Instruction Manual).

An ancient biblical reference in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7  refers to love as follows: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

During what sometimes feels like our darkest times, when we feel betrayed, hurt and defeated, what will bring us into the light is love. Love involves taking a higher road, putting aside our destructive attitudes, feelings and behaviours (e.g. like blaming and complaining), in favour of more positive and caring approaches.

Though this can feel like a major uphill climb, a loving view of others can lead to growth opportunities, increase possibilities and foster effective, productive conversations that generate creative solutions.

Love is a verb! It can be seen in a vast array of behaviours or actions. One such expression of love is forgiveness. Research supports this premise, suggesting that forgiving past wrongs can be helpful in the aid of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and chronic pain—it can alter the state of our health (University of Wisconsin, Department of Family Medicine).

Some may think of forgiveness as a process to make the other person feel better; however those who forgive may reap as much of not more benefit than those forgiven. In the material on The Nature of Forgiveness” (University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine) we learn the following:

  • Forgiveness is a transformation. The key is to release suffering and increase inner peace and understanding.

  • Forgiveness is NOT forgetting. In fact, you have to remember and acknowledge negative emotions and events before forgiveness can occur.

  • Forgiveness is NOT pardoning, excusing, or saying that something will be treated as acceptable behaviour in the future.
  • Forgiveness is, first and foremost, done for the person doing the forgiving.
  • Forgiveness is a path to freedom. It frees you from the control of the person who caused the harm. They lose their power to cause you to feel negative emotions.
  • Forgiveness can break old patterns that might otherwise interfere when you try to create new relationships.
  • Forgiveness can take a lot of time and hard work.
  • Forgiveness need not require ‘making up’ with the person who caused the harm. It is an internal process. It is primarily for you. The goal is to help you heal, to help you grow.

Thinking about forgiveness may not be enough. For many, tapping into principles described in various spiritual traditions from around the world is necessary. Prayer, meditation, intrapersonal and interpersonal dialogues, mindfulness, and developing emotional intelligence may be essential parts of the forgiveness process for many people.

It is essential to our physical, spiritual and mental health to seek ways to surround ourselves with positive examples of life, qualities and relationships.  Learning ways to increase our ability to love and forgive helps us let go and move toward a happier and more satisfying life.

The Family Social System

“A family is far more than a collection of individuals sharing a specific physical and physiological space. While families occur in a diversity of forms and complexities, each may be considered a natural sustained social system—one that has evolved a set of rules, is replete with assigned and ascribed roles for its members, has an organized power structure, has developed intricate overt and covert forms of communication, and has elaborated ways of negotiating and problem solving that permit various tasks to be performed effectively” (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008).

Part of the process of living within our family social system, is to develop our own individual identities. To function successfully, members need to adapt to the changing needs and demands of one another, including changing and adjusting to expectations. What would a family be like with no structure, rules or expectations at all?. Sometimes, families become depleted as a result of resistance to change… implosion. Alternately, too many changes, both external and internal stressors, can lead to the family breaking apart… explosions.

Most, if not all, families cannot expect to avoid exposure to some stress, loss, or traumatic events at various points in their lives. Unfortunately, these challenges are not always handled the same way. Some families may have a difficult time managing. Nonetheless, managing and coping effectively as a family system is necessary and possible.

Family resilience, the ability to thrive and maintain stable psychological and physical functioning after aversive experiences, is essential for a family system to succeed in life. We should consider our level of family resilience in our homes. Consistent conflicts and energy depleting relationships will be an indication that the systems we have in place are no longer too effective and we require adjustments.

Some key family processes to attain family resilience are as follows:

  • Does your family have a consistent and positive belief system? Does your family view disruptions as milestones? Does your family resist assigning blame and focus on a crisis as a manageable resource?
  • Are you and your family members utilizing resources when confronted with stress? Are all members open to change and connecting with one another?
  • Are effective family communication and problem solving strategies set in place? Is mutual trust between all members secure? Are expressions from all members accepted and encouraged?

Some families can be (temporarily) shattered by crises. Feelings of hurt, hostility, and resentment may pile up and be unresolved. This makes it very difficult for a family to resort to their processes of family resilience. Family counselling is a good opportunity to address how a family is functioning. In a non-judgmental environment, all aspects of the family may be addressed and goals may be reestablished and achieved. Call us today to get your family through crisis.

Managing a nuclear family (most often composed of mom and dad and their offspring), is hard enough given the responsibilities and challenges of every day life. We are all aware of how our world has evolved in culture and diversity and the ever changing variety of family types as well. The balancing act required when new family members are introduced (additional “parent” figures, aunts, uncles and grandparents too) can become quite overwhelming

Being in a relationship with just one person is almost impossible. Our focus on developing a bond may at first be towards the person of interest; however as time goes by, we share the holidays with each other’s families, we celebrate birthdays, and attend family and friends’ weddings. We are no longer in a relationship with just one person—our love extends outward to the people that our new partner loves as well.

Imagine the complexity when our partner has a child. Even if the relationship between our partner and their co-parent is cooperative and working well, a lot of work is still required to keep parenting unified and consistent. This is even more of a balancing act when the parents decide to develop a romantic relationship with someone else.

As parents, we may be subtle in our pursuit to find a partner. However, when we feel we’ve found a suitable sidekick, it takes strategic planning to introduce this new person to our children. We may start to ask ourselves and others: “Do we say this is just a friend? Do we slowly start to include this new person into family occasions? When is the right time and best way to go about this? How long does or should courting take place before we introduce them to our children?”

In addition to these questions, parents’ negativity or stinkin’ thinkin’ can also get in the way. “What if we break up and this person has created a great bond with my child?” “If I couldn’t make it work with my last spouse, how do I know how to get along this time? My partner doesn’t have children, how can I ever trust that he/she knows what to do?

Let’s also consider the new partner’s stinkin’ thinkin’. How can I really be a parent to a child when there are two healthy parents already? What if my relationship ends; does my relationship with this child end too? How can I provide input into the well-being of this child, without stepping on the parents’ toes? I’ve never had a child before, how do I know I can be a parent to this one now?

Associated with these thoughts are feelings of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. Cognitive behaviour therapy suggests that with the rise of our negative thoughts and feelings, negative behaviours won’t be too far behind.  The related negative behaviours (e.g. grumpy, impatient, withdrawn, blaming) can severely disrupt parental unity, making it almost impossible to establish effective co-parenting plans (with ALL adults involved). Family systems approaches also guide family decision-making, structure and day-to-day adjustments using a non-blaming and teamwork perspective.

Seeking help in co-parenting assists parents with significant life adjustments and transitions such as finding healthier ways to introduce new members to the family. Counselling also is beneficial with helping family members create individual and group rules, expectations and goals as part of forming a new family configuration.

Our registered, professional counsellors , here in Durham Region, provide parenting coaching and family counselling that incorporates the children’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours as well as parents’. When the entire family attends, (all adults whenever possible), this models for the children the importance of forgiveness, acceptance, love and thoughtfulness. 

To receive supportive assistance with your “balancing act” and to receive helpful tools to manage your family relations more effectively, call us today!

Accusation or Acceptance?  Anguish or Forgiveness?

How many times in our lives have we expected something to happen or someone to come through on a promise or commitment. Maybe we have expected to be recognized for having done something a little special? When this doesn’t happen, how do we respond? I know I’ve been upset, let down and even angry on many of these occasions. Of course, with heightened emotions our behaviour can also become less than optimal making a frustrating situation even worse.

We have the whole wide range of emotions for a reason. There are no “bad feelings” like I thought growing up. It is, rather, how we choose to express our emotions can either be helpful or hurtful.

And what about the expectations we have for ourselves? All too frequently the goals, aspirations and targets we set can be thwarted, unreached or underachieved. Perhaps we fail to put in the required effort or decide the goal was too lofty or not worth the effort? At those times, negative thoughts can easily arise in the back of our mind, contributing to excessive emotions and negative behaviours. Some of us over/under eat, others over/under talk and still others turn to addictive habits (e.g. smoking, drugs, sex, exercise etc.).

As we learn, grow and mature, I like to think our expression of feelings and reactions improve.  The advanced ability to address upset with humility and grace, however, is not an automatic right of passage or a quality one develops by aging.  Through reading, education and practice we stand the best chance to improve. How we think about ourselves and others, when expectations are unmet, is central to both our emotional and behavioural response. When disappointment and upset surface, we can adopt positive attitudes that foster empathetic reactions.

“We are all human and are learning all the time”… “How can I do better next time?” “Some goals you reach… focus on those”

The next time you don’t reach a goal you set or someone you placed confidence in doesn’t follow through, dig deep inside your mind for an attitude or acceptance that fosters a balanced emotional state, and subsequently, wise and healthy behavioural choices. Additionally, it is important to take ownership for letting ourselves or others down, finding creative ways to reconcile the relationship.

Let us remember, healthy relationships are constructed, built up, maintained and enhanced over time. When efforts don’t match expectations we can still be polite and respectful.

Keep Personal and Professional Separate? Not Always

Ever consider bringing some of the skills you learn at the office home, into your marriage and family life? It is quite common to struggle with communication in our personal lives; to become quickly frustrated, abrupt and even downright hurtful at times. Yes “potty mouth” or what I sometimes call “verbal diarrhea” can easily become part of the argument when fighting escalates.

While there are important boundaries to be maintained between the office and home, there are multiple skills and strengths that can be used quite well in either environment. Why not practice a strategy or two from the office in your family life? For instance, in business we tend to schedule times (staff meetings etc.) to discuss more serious or important issues or challenges. We might even give out the agenda items in advance (when we’re well organized) allowing people time to consider their opinions, ideas and solutions prior to the meeting. This approach gives each person a chance to prepare, thus helping to keep conversations calm and solution-focused.

Some organizations have problem-solving protocols, conflict-resolution guidelines and emergency plans. The first may include the following very important principle; “When you have a problem with someone, first address the issue with that person directly”. Only after doing so, and being unable to resolve the matter, would you go outside for help (not for complaining or gossiping).

Imagine how many fights and arguments might be avoided by bringing just a few professional communication strategies home? Additional skills may include negotiation and conflict-resolution skills such as; keep emotions calm or minimized; one issue at a time; stay current or present-focused; structure the meeting well (e.g. be as brief as possible and begin and end with encouragement-positives).

Well, maybe not boardroom to bedroom, however, it is important to transfer positive skills and solutions both from office to home and visa-versa. Yes we may do well to bring something like teamwork back and forth. Thinking of the family and couple as teams, no different than sports teams and work teams, reminds us we are to work together toward the same goals; toward health, wealth and happiness.

For teamwork to be successful, there is no place for judgement, blame or grandstanding, whether at the office, shop, arena or at home. When things get difficult, and one teammate is not doing well, it is precisely then that others are to move in and help out.

Want to improve your teamwork at the office or at home?  Contact us today



Sometimes a new diagnosis for your child may release certain feelings: guilt, shame, embarrassment, or regret. We might tend to push these feelings aside and focus on the “main concern,” that being our child. Getting counselling or therapy help for our children is great, yet, this is not necessarily the only strategy for our family’s overall health and improvement.

Family systems theory points to the interconnectedness of all family members. We don’t always feel connected so how is it family members are connected? This “umbrella” theory suggests that we are connected by the vast array of rules and roles members have in the family and also by the emotional intensity so apparent in family relationships. Following this, one person’s diagnosis then impact us all, thus, is actually kind of a diagnosis for the whole family. 

This is a very positive and optimistic perspective that implies a change in one part of the system or family member will actually change all members. A difficult concept given all the negative press or thinking that states you can’t change other people.  False!  According to the science behind family systems theory we can. In therapy or counselling, when one person comes in to improve (thoughts, feelings and behaviours), we can expect to gradually also see a change in others in the family.

Rather than just wanting one person to get help, we may want to include as many family members as possible in the counselling or coaching process. Thinking systemically requires us to acknowledge that a health diagnosis, major event or situation can and will have an impact on the entire family.

We at Jeff Packer MSW & Associates Inc. encourage all family members to join counselling sessions when and where appropriate, while also understanding one person can begin the process.


  1. By addressing the impact of the diagnosis for the entire family, it provides a better understanding of each member and the role they play in their family system.
  2. The more family members work together on solutions, the faster and more effectively we can adjust and/or improve.
  3. Increasing the communication of the diagnosis can create a stronger support system for the person diagnosed.
  4. Because family members have a profound impact on each other’s thoughts and feelings, learning how to cope with the negative thoughts and difficult feelings will create unity and promote teamwork.

Invite as many family members as you want, yet be ok to start the change process on your own. Remember, change is happening all the time. Our decisions influence the direction of change; either toward better or worse relationships. To change for the better... contact us today !

 Get Help and Protect Your Children From Conflict

Once the decision to end a marriage is made, a whirlwind of emotions and a multitude of decisions spring up for all family members. Never having a marriage breakup before, couples will quite often wrestle with what to do, how and when to tell the children, the family, friends and employers.

They also may say “we are going to get along and work out the details” amicably. While this seems rational and reasonable at first, tensions around the unknown, legal matters and practical decisions that need to be made begin to press in on parents from all sides. Children feel and are impacted by this stress.

Managing the complexities of marital separation without experienced, professional coaching can be quite risky, especially when children’s emotional health is at risk.  As arguments build and hurts compound, a pattern of adversarial and conflictual interaction develops. All too often, sides begin to be drawn up, extended family join in the fight and getting along begins to seem “unrealistic”.

Peace is possible as is cooperative and  parenting after separation and divorce.

Our Oshawa counsellors at Jeff Packer MSW & Associates are trained to assist parents by developing co-parenting plans that address communication strategies, access coordination and schedules and coach practical ways to discuss issues with children, family and friends. Rather than risk your child’s health and well being, consider hiring a coach to help you with adjusting, developing effective negotiation and problem-solving skills and by reducing the time and money spent fighting unnecessarily.

Contact us today